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Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations. 1989.

NUMBER: 1084
AUTHOR: Joseph Gurney Cannon (1836–1926)
QUOTATION: You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, and you can’t change human nature from intelligent self-interest into pure idealism—not in this life; and if you could, what would be left for paradise?
ATTRIBUTION: Representative JOSEPH G. CANNON, maxim quoted in a tribute to Cannon on his retirement, The Sun, Baltimore, Maryland, March 4, 1923.—Congressional Record, March 4, 1923, vol. 64, p. 5714.

“Uncle Joe” Cannon, who was Speaker of the House 1903–1911, served in the House for 46 years.